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Selling Personal Information

Updated on January 23, 2012

How Can Someone Else Buy and Sell My Personal Information?

The State of Ohio sold driving records including Social Security numbers earning the state $42 million in 2010. The price was 0.00139 cents for each record. To make $42 million dollars they had to sell driving records 30,215,827,338 times. There are 7,656,362 licensed drivers in the State of Ohio, which means that each record was sold 3,946 times.

It is interesting that you cannot charge a fee to share your personal information, but any entity can take ownership of your information and buy and sell it at their leisure without your permission. Try charging a car dealer twenty dollars for your personal information and permission to run your credit the next time you buy a car. Seems fair to charge the dealership a personal information fee, the dealer is going to charge customers the price of the car (plus their profit), the cost of delivery, and tax, title, and document fees. This does not include the optional products and services the finance person is going to up-sell when closing the deal. Then when the sale is done, your personal information is sold to warranty companies, insurance companies, and other affiliates that will try to sell you other products and services for your vehicle. And if the dealership does not sell your information, your State DMV will sell your driving record and your vehicle registration information.

People are told to protect their personal information, but then almost every thing we do these days involves sharing personal information. I was looking for a set of tires for my van the other day and to get the price of the tires I had to provide my name, address, home phone number, and cell phone number. Soon after I was getting emails, phone calls, and junk mail for tires and credit cards for tire companies. All I wanted was to know was the price of a Cooper CS-4 tire. I did not want sales calls for other brands of tires, credit card offers, or other products and services associated with the care of tires.

For Christmas I bought my wife an Kindle Fire reader device. To make the device work, not only did I have to provide my personal information, but I had to link it to my Amazon account which requires a credit card number and a bank account number. As consumers we are too willing to give up our private information so that we can have the coolest devices and the coolest applications to make these devices work better or be more enjoyable.

When did it become okay to have to provide not only personal information, but grant companies access to credit card accounts and banking accounts so we can have access to products and services that we do not need. For example most satellite television providers do not allow you to choose your own satellite service until after they have run your credit history. This is a hard credit check, that stays on file for two years. Depending on your credit score, the satellite company determines what package is good for you. Of course, to get all of the options that are advertised a new customer must provide the company with direct access to a credit card to open the account, and then must allow the company direct access to your bank account to collect their monthly fee. All "free" services and products are only free if the company can have access to your bank account. This is good of you want worry free bill paying, but can hurt you when you cancel your service.

Many companies has some sort of guarantee that they will not sell your information to other companies. However, they do share your information with their affiliate companies and the credit reporting bureaus. These corporate entities do not have to abide by the privacy polices of the initial corporation a consumer may willingly give private information to.

Personal information is like gold, who ever has it can sell it or pass it on to someone else that can sell it to make a profit. Consumers on the other hand do not profit directly from the sale of their personal information. I think everyone should be entitled to a share of the profits made from entities buying and selling personal information. In today's world the only personal information anyone has are the things they never share.


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